Wednesday, 30 September 2015

More bumps in the road ~ Seniors Day 4

And it all started so well. Our first match was against Tunisia, who were in the bottom five. We steadily built up our score, with David Mossop bringing home a grand slam on the last board to take us to 71 IMPs to 4, and through the 20.00 VP barrier. (20.00 is known variously as a Millennium, a Sydney or a Mad Cow, that being the year of the disease).

We had hoped to do something similar to Chile, who were also in the bottom five, but in the event we needed a 2 IMP swing on the last board to give us the narrowest of victories by 43 IMPs to 42. We were still lying first, but the pack had closed up.

Austria were lying fourth and had lost their first two matches of the day. Unfortunately they decided to recover by whupping us by 41 to 2 in IMPs, leaving us with a miserly 2.03 VPs. They got three double-digit swings, all vulnerable, and that was that. We were above average for the day, but that isn't enough when you're near the top, and we had slipped to fifth place.

Nobody said it was going to be easy and we plan to bounce back tomorrow. I brought along a quote, just in case we had a bad match, and this is it:

Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward.Victor Kiam

Tomorrow we will play Norway (bridge playing membership: 8,900) who are one position above us in fourth. Then comes Ireland (1,900), who were seventh in the European Championships and came in as very late replacements when Sri Lanka (132) withdrew. I am sorry that BJ O’Brien and Michael MacDonagh were unable to make the trip to Chennai. Ireland are seventh at the moment. Last we have Sweden (23,200). Sweden were silver medallists in the European Championships last year, and are currently tenth. Tough matches all, but twice the reward if we can win them.

Paul Hackett told me an interesting fact about India: the reason the time difference is five and half hours dates back to the days of the British Raj. It meant that that when they turned their watches upside down, they got the time in England!  Of course, it's one hour out in Summer Time, whose centenary will be in May 2016. It doesn't work with a digital clock (I've just tried it), except perhaps once a day with a particular combination of 1s, 6s, 9s and 0s. Can any egghead reading this please let me know.

Mixed Raises - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (3)

On a day of mixed results, England managed to rise to seventh place in the overall standings.   Meanwhile the 'great Danes' continued their impressive progress and still lead - some 36 VPs ahead of us as we start play on day four of the championships.

The first objective is to finish the round-robin in the top eight, thereby qualifying for the knock-out stages but it would be advantageous to finish in the top three, which would enable us to choose our opponents in the quarter-finals.   Bearing this in mind, we are looking forward to a good performance today but standing in our way are the teams from Chinese Taipei, Guadaloupe and Pakistan in matches 10,11 and 12.

With Canada, placed thirteenth, within fifteen VPs of our total, there are many teams still battling for  the qualifying slots and, certainly, there is no room for complacency.  

Leading Teams after nine matches (out of twenty-one)

Denmark                      142.84
USA II                         132.93
USA I                          125.24
Netherlands                 121.63
France                          115.67
Italy                             115.13
England                       106.60
Poland                         104.78

Time to move through the gears !

Bermuda Bowl - England Open Team Part 4

The day started with two matches against European teams. First up was Denmark, and a win by 15 imps got us off to a good start. Match 2 was against the high flying Bulgarian team. With a board to go we were 40 imps to the good, but a slightly unlucky last board saw us misguess the queen of trumps in a slam when it was guessed in the other room, meaning a final margin of 23 imps, but still a fine win against a very good team. Last up we played Canada, and unfortunately a disappointg loss by thirty imps left us in 12th position. The good news is that we still have seven teams below us left to play, so we are hopeful that day 4 will prove to be moving day, despite a tough looking last match against France who currently lie second in the round robin by only 0.05 VPs! Come on boys, it's time to get our groove on!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Moving through the gears ~ Seniors Day 3

We started against Egypt, who were lying three-quarters of the way down the table. I was a bit worried (as I am sure you were) when we were only 29-14 up after 10 boards, but a fine finish, including a double game swing worth 16 IMPs, saw us run out winners by 68 IMPs to 14 (19.52 VPs, an Elizabethan) and hold on to first place.

We were hoping for solid wins against Pakistan (who rested their Z Mahmood) and Japan, who were both in mid-table. The match against Pakistan was very low scoring and we lost 13-17, despite winning five boards to their three. The loss was almost entirely due to a 25% slam that was bid and made by Pakistan. 

Japan was another close-fought match which we won by 34 IMPs to 23, worth 13.04 VPs (13.04 is known as a Stirling to commemorate the fall of Stirling Castle, the last rebel stronghold of the Wars of Scottish Independence).

We are now third, behind Austria and Australia. We are 3 VPs off the top spot, but a reassuring 22 VPs ahead of the ninth-placed team. 

On Wednesday we will start with Tunisia (bridge playing membership: 150). Next are Chile (1,640), who replaced Argentina, when the latter withdrew. And we finish with the overnight leaders Austria (2,800), who have been at or near the top of the table since the beginning. The match starts at about 1pm UK time, so please remember to do your bit and cross your fingers for a couple of hours.

Yves Aubry, President of the European Bridge League, held a press conference at lunch time. He spoke about what the EBL was doing about the pairs who had been accused of cheating. He warned that it would take time, because the accused were entitled to a fair trail. I found him positive, and a lot more convincing than the WBF President; I believe we will see some action.

To end on a happy note; today was Olivia's Hackett's birthday and she celebrated with Paul and the team in an Indian restaurant in the hotel. 

l-to-r: David Price ("Gosh, did he really bid Four Diamonds on that?"), John Holland, Paul Hackett with partner number one, Olivia, and partner number two, David Mossop. 

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.Henry Ford

Moving Day - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (2)

They say that the third day of a golf tournament is "moving day", as the contenders for the title jostle for position.   Despite there being four more days in the round-robin after this and with eight teams qualifying for the next stage of the event, I am viewing our day three as a chance to establish ourselves near the top of the table. 

Denmark's remarkable start to the event, averaging nearly 19 VPs per match over the first two days, gives them a 42 VP advantage over us but this lead is deceptive, given the high quality of our opponents in the early matches.   It will be interesting to see if we can catch the Danes by the end of day four - maybe optimistic but not an outrageous suggestion!

Today, we will be sampling a taste of the southern hemisphere with matches against New Zealand, Brazil and Australia. 

I noticed in our pre-match notes on the opposition that, "New Zealand is a misspelling...".   Be that as it may, here's hoping for some more good bridge today!

Warming to the Task - Venice Cup, Chennai 2015 (1)

Venice Cup, day two - the English women warmed to the task.   There had been no chance to ease our way gently into the tournament, having been assigned  three tough matches on the opening day.   These were against Poland, France and China (all likely qualifiers for the knock-out stages) and, although the results were not disastrous, things did not go as we might have wished.

It was important, therefore, to produce a good performance in match four against the Italians, fourth in last year's European championships.   On boards one and two, lady luck did not smile on the English but after a very polished performance, we overturned an early deficit to emerge victorious in a tight match. 

With renewed confidence, the momentum gathered pace in the next two matches, resulting in two near-maximum victories (versus South Africa and Egypt).   After a day of very fine play, we ended the day in ninth position and having played four of the top teams already, we are handily placed for the rest of the round-robin phase.

Bermuda Bowl - England Open Team Part 3

A rather rough day for the Open Team in Chennai. The first match of the day saw us take on a strong Brazilian team, and some rather unlucky boards saw us lose by 25 imps. Next up was Singapore - and a couple of ropey results gave us a 13 imp loss. Last up came the strong USA II team, and in a set of boards which didn't offer too much scope for big swings we lost by 10 imps. Whilst results were disappointing today, I am optimistic that with a small upturn in form and a bit of a following wind we can turn things around tomorrow with matches against Denmark, Bulgaria and Canada. You can follow the results at

Monday, 28 September 2015

A bit of a bumpy ride ~ Seniors Day 2

As predicted, it was a tough day … for me, anyway. The team performed heroically, but I found it exhausting, following their roller-coaster progress board by board. 

We were behind against Indonesia until the eleventh board (of 16), but then a fine grand slam, bid by David Price and Colin Simpson (against a slam slam at the other table), saw us take the lead, and we hung on for a 29-24 IMP victory.
Poland played their top two pairs against us and won a high-scoring match by 50 IMPs to 41. This was our first loss and it dropped us down to third place.

For the third match we were up against the leaders, Bulgaria, so it was what followers of football like to call a 'six pointer'. This was another nail-biter to watch; after seven boards we were 4-19 down and had slipped to sixth place overall. Then 28 unanswered IMPs saw us win the match 32-19 and, with the other results going our way, we were suddenly lying in first place!

It is all incredibly close; the host nation, India, are in eighth place, just 8 VPs behind us. And there is still a very looong way to go.

Tuesday’s menu is Egypt (bridge playing membership: 913). Then Pakistan (525), whose team includes a certain Z Mahmood. No, not that one, but Zakir Mahmood. We are saving the other Z Mahmood for later. Third up are Japan (7,600). 

The England supporters' club are here in force. Godfrey King is the founder and organiser, and with him, looking good in their England BridgeMates shirts, are June Forte, Maureen Dennison, Gill Harris, and Ruth and Paul Vogt. The European Championships are in Budapest next June; please let Godfrey know if you are interested in seeing some fine old structures there (and I am not referring to the England Senior team).

Never give in and never give up.Hubert H. Humphrey

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Bermuda Bowl - England Open Team Part 2

So after much waiting, much talking, a few press conferences, a few good curries and a lot of speculation, our Open Team finally got their Bermuda Bowl campaign underway today. We started with a match against host nation India, doubtless fired up for their opening match on home soil. Things looked difficult for a little while, however a super last 6 boards or so saw us to a nine imp victory, including a Robson redouble of 6H resulting in the unusual score of a non-vulnerable 1620. The second match was against Sweden, one of the replacements in Chennai, but a fierce opponent over the years. Some good results were secured at both tables allowing us to secure a 22 imp victory. The last match against Australia produced a slightly disappointing two imp loss - some chances went amiss but at the end of the day we had a solid start under our belts, with us currently occupying sixth place in the table. Tomorrow sees us play Brazil (0630 UK Time), Singapore (1000 UK Time) and USA II (1250 UK Time). Let's hope to kick on a little and build a solid foundation for our qualification for the last eight.

They’re Off ~ Seniors Day 1

We hit the road running against Brazil and a fine performance saw us win by 61 IMPs to 8 (I say 'us' when we win a match to look as though I contributed something; it will be 'them' when 'they' lose a match – nothing to do with me). John Holland and Gunnar Hallberg bid to a slam over an opposition opening bid; the opener was so affronted that he doubled, but the contract rolled in. That was 19.43 VPs (a Casablanca) and England were in second position.

Australia have the great Ron Klinger in their team, but he was rested for the England-Australia match. They did have Henry Christie playing for them. Henry used to live in London and was a contemporary of some of the England team at the Young Chelsea Club in the 70s. We squeaked home in this one, 37-36 in IMPs and 10.31 in VPs. (Note to Stuart Lancaster: please emulate us and beat Australia by one point next weekend.)

Guadeloupe were leading 13-6 after five boards of the third match, but England fought back to win comfortably by 56 IMPs to 15, 18.21 VPs, moving us back up to second place behind Austria.
Visitors to India are fearful of getting upset stomachs. My master plan is that the three Senior pairs should eat in three different restaurants every evening. What do you think?

Colin Simpson sends his best wishes to all the member so Gerrards Cross Bridge Club.

Back to the matter in hand: Monday is likely to be one of our toughest days. Our first opponents are Indonesia (bridge playing membership: 17,750), who qualified by winning Zone 6, Then we have Poland (7,000), perennial medal contenders, and third in the European Championships last year. Third up are Bulgaria (1,300); we lost to them in the preliminary rounds in Opatija, but beat them heavily in the final round robin.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.  Aristotle

Saturday, 26 September 2015

On your marks ~ Seniors D

Things started happening today. First there was the registration process – signing in and collecting our badges, programmes and goodie-bags (two packs of cards and a small stationery kit). The programmes were printed in Italy a week or so ago and they do not include the most recent team change, brought about by the withdrawal of Germany.

Next there was an eagerly awaited Press conference, in which the WBF was expected to explain its process for handling the recent allegations of cheating by players from Israel, Monaco and Germany. The meeting was a big disappointment to all the attendees I spoke to, but it seems that while their leader waffled, the WBF had been doing some real work behind the scenes; 95 minutes later we were informed that the WBF Credentials Committee had withdrawn its invitation to play in the Bermuda Bowl from the Polish pair, Cezary Balicki and Adam Zmudzinski. It remains to be seen whether Poland will withdraw the whole Open team.

Then there was the captains’ meeting, in which we were reminded of some of the specific rules for the championships. Mobile phones are not allowed in the playing area, even if switched off (unlike in the European Championships). There will be no Appeals allowed against a director's ruling (unlike in the States), given that the director will have gone away and consulted his fellow directors and a panel of peer players.

And finally there was the Opening Ceremony. One is always fearful of too much cultural dancing and too many over-long speeches. This evening’s ceremony was the best I remember and I would give it eight out of ten; a little long at one hour and twenty minutes, but the band and singers were first class.

In case you didn't know, the EBU only pays for the entry fee and uniforms of the Senior team. I would like to thank Roger O'Shea and Pharon Financial Advisers, without whose support I would not be here. It is the Pharon logo that you can see on the team's blue shirts.

And so to bed. The team are under strict instructions not to watch the England-Wales rugby match (which starts after midnight, local time); I will be ringing them all at 1:00 pm to make sure they are asleep. After the cheating scandals, it will be a relief to get started on some proper bridge. There will be three matches every day for the next seven days, making up a complete Round Robin. The top eight teams will qualify for the knock-out phase next week. Our first three opponents are Brazil (bridge playing membership: 937, about the same size as Richmond Bridge Club), Australia (34,500) and Guadeloupe (170).

My third Senior quote is 
I know not age, nor weariness nor defeat.” 
Sounds a bit Churchillian, but it was said by Rose Kennedy.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Getting ready ~ Seniors C

Today was the one full day off for the players – time for them to get over their jet-lag and have some quiet systems discussions amongst themselves. 

Paul Hackett and David Mossop have been acclimatising in Goa, and they arrived this evening.

I joined Sally Brock and Heather Dhondy on a tour of Chennai this morning. We visited two temples, one church, one basilica, one fort, one shop and saw the aforementioned Marina beach. What did I learn? St Thomas' Basilica is built over the tomb of St Thomas, one of the twelve apostles.

Later on I sat in on the Press conference for the Indian press, which was very well attended, with quite a few TV cameras. So far nearly a hundred Indian teams have entered the Transnational teams (open to anybody from anywhere) and the total entry may break the record set in Veldhoven, The Netherlands, in 2011.

In the main events there are 66 teams playing and 35 countries are represented. India (as hosts) and 12 other countries (including England) have teams in all three competitions. Six countries have two teams and 15 have only one team. A few famous European teams didn't qualify; for example, France, the Senior World Champions in 2011, aren't here.

David Price sends greetings to all his friends at Clare Bridge Club.

Yesterday's Senior quote is credited to Abraham Lincoln. Today's is by C.S. Lewis: 
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Touchdown ~ Seniors B

Most of the players arrived today. The daily British Airways flight from London lands at 03:30 – not a nice time to arrive anywhere. And certainly not nice for those who live under the flight path. Chennai changed its name from Madras in 1996 but IATA doesn't recognise such rebranding, and the airport code is still MAA (Madrid got MAD). Similarly with Mumbai (BOM), Beijing (PEK), St Petersburg (LED) and a few others.

We are all staying in the Grand Chola Hotel. It is enormous – 600 rooms and very large public spaces. Luckily they give you a big ball of string so that you can find your way back to reception.

The really good news is that all the bridge takes place in the hotel, so we won’t have to travel outside in the heat (33
degrees today) or the monsoon rain (forecast for a few days' time).

More facts about Chennai: It is known as 'the Detroit of India' (because of its car-building) but prefers to call itself 'the cultural capital of India'. At 6 km, Chennai's Marina Beach is the second longest urban beach in the world.

And the answers to yesterday’s questions are:

(A) Guadeloupe is representing the Central American & Caribbean Bridge Federation in all three events. Surprisingly, Guadeloupe is not the competitor with the smallest number of registered bridge players. The country/countries with fewer will be revealed over the coming days. (Now there’s an incentive to read the blogs every day!)

(B): Yes, the Rugby World Cup is being shown on one of their six sports channels.

Today's Senior motivational quote is:

"It's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."

Who said it? Unless your curiosity overcomes you and you google it, the answer will be revealed tomorrow. And it isn't Mae West.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Off to Chennai! ~ Seniors A

England have three teams at the World Championships for the first time (the Senior event only started in 2001). There are 22 Open, Women’s and Senior teams, made up of qualifiers from each of the world bridge zones. At one end of the scale Europe provides six teams in each event; at the other end the Central American & Caribbean Bridge Federation provides one team in each event. Can you guess which country is providing all three CACB teams?

The England Senior team is the one that won the European Championships in June 2014 in Opatija, Croatia: Paul Hackett & David Mossop, Gunnar Hallberg & John Holland, David Price & Colin Simpson. Five of the team (with Ross Harper instead of David Mossop) won the World Champioships (for the d'Orsi Bowl) in Sao Paulo in 2009. I have the honour of being their non-playing captain.

Chennai was founded in 1639 and is the capital of Tamil Nadu State. It has (depending on which web-site you read) an urban population of 4.8 million and it is the fourth largest city in India after Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. (Or it is the sixth largest, and Hyderabad and Ahmedabad have pushed it down the table.)

The question on everybody’s lips as we set off for Chennai: are the Indians showing any of the Rugby World Cup matches on television?

Monday, 21 September 2015

Bermuda Bowl - England Open Team Part I

In six days time, England's Open Team will begin its quest for Bridge's Holy Grail, the Bermuda Bowl which takes place in Chennai (formerly Madras) in India. Whilst the Bridge World has been rocked by recent goings on with reference to several high profile International Pairs being accused or confessing to cheating, the next few weeks brings another focus for myself, coach Andrew Murphy and six players - David Bakhshi, Tony Forrester, David Gold, Jason & Justin Hackett and Andrew Robson. The time for us to focus on the job in hand has arrived, and we will be doing our very best to get the results I am sure we would all love to see. Chennai is 4.5 hours ahead of London, so whilst some of the matches will be rather early for those still in the UK, all support will be gratefully received! Matches will be broadcast on, so tune in and enjoy the show!